The history of afternoon tea dates back to the early 1800s, when the English spent leisurely afternoons over sandwiches and tea in some of the city's most lavish coffee houses.
Over the years, the concept of tea sessions evolved into an international social affair where families and friends catch up with one another, and business associates entertain partners and out of town guests. It is a great way to take a break from the hustle and bustle of daily lives and spend some quality time with your network of friends and associates. Nutritionists also recommend tea as a suitable beverage to rehydrate and rejuvenate the mind and body.
1. The Library – InterContinental Asiana Saigon (Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam)
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, is one of the hidden gems in South East Asia and a city steeped in culture and history. Since the 1800s, the vibrant streets of Ho Chi Minh City have been adorned with captivating architecture and quaint boulevards to feed one’s cultural appetite.
The locals have also cultivated an appreciation for good tea. Vietnam has countless tea factories and a handful of tea cultivation research institutes dedicated to developing over 27 varieties of black, green and scented tea leaves for international trade and locals to enjoy. Sit back and enjoy a cup of tea in the calming ambiance of The Library at InterContinental Asiana Saigon, and top it off with a fine selection of seasonal Vietnamese nibbles.
2. Esplanade Cafe – InterContinental Cairo Citystars (Cairo, Egypt)
The city of Cairo, known for its grand pyramids and the famous Sphinx, is one of the longest lived cities in the world. Nested right in the heart of Cairo is the Esplanade café at InterContinental Cairo Citystars, where locals and visitors alike can take respite from the day’s work and travels and delight their palate with a mix of bite-sized Western and Oriental treats and tea.
Chocolate lovers will find their cravings satisfied with the tantalising Chocolate Fudge cake. For something a little more local, try the Baboosa, a traditional middle-eastern dessert, which has just the right amount of sweetness to make your day.
Watch life go by in this magical town while sipping on your choice of international tea, complete with a beautiful view of the swimming pool from the hotel’s lounge terrace.
3. Zamzam café – InterContinental Dar Al Tawhid Makkah, Saudi Arabia
One of the holiest and more sacred cities in the world, both locals and travellers revel in the breath-taking ancient architecture and fascinating local customs of Makkah (Mecca) in Saudi Arabia. An attraction not to be missed is the Zamzam Well – one of the city’s many wonders which provides a constant source of holy water.
Inspired by the famous miracle, the Zamzam Cafe at InterContinental Dar Al Tawhid Makkah is located in the mezzanine of the hotel’s grand lobby, and offers guests the serene surroundings to enjoy various specialty teas while soaking in the magnificent view of the holy mosque, Al Haram.
4. Lobby Lounge – InterContinental Foshan (Guangzhou, China)
Famous for being the birthplace of the renowned martial arts hero Ip Man, Foshan in Guangzhou China is also home to many wondrous sights.
With breathtaking views overlooking the sparkling Qian Deng Lake, InterContinental Foshan in Guangzhou, China is surrounded by lush and tastefully landscaped gardens, providing guests with an unparalleled view of greenery. The hotel is also home to the cosy Lobby Lounge at InterContinental Foshan, the perfect place to treat friends or business counterparts to a vast selection of teas and light bites.
5. Tea Garden – InterContinental Semiramis (Cairo, Egypt)
In Egypt, tea (or Shai to the locals) is a symbol of Egyptian hospitality. The locals appreciate their tea sessions and deem it an essential act after lunch. They also believe that it is an experience best served with company.
Relish in a cup of tea and indulge in a range of sweet treats with the glistening Nile River as your picturesque backdrop at the Tea Garden at InterContinental Cairo. Be sure to try Koshary tea – a popular tea among locals for its light and refreshing flavour – or sip on Saiidi, a bitter dark tea for the more adventurous.
6. Lobby Lounge – InterContinental Singapore (Singapore)
InterContinental Singapore is the only hotel in Singapore to preserve the country’s rich Peranakan history of early settlers from the former Straits Settlements of Singapore, Malacca and Penang in a five-star luxury setting. The Peranakan (or Baba Nonya) culture stands out among Singapore’s melting pot of ethnicities and traditions as one that is known for its tasty cuisine, warm hospitality and rich heritage.
Adjacent to one of Singapore’s busiest shopping and dining locations, InterContinental Singapore’s iconic Lobby Lounge is a respite from the hectic city. Spend an afternoon at the lounge and be transported back in time to a traditional Peranakan-styled living room, complete with the intricately-designed interior and quaint furnishings.
Staying true to its culinary tradition, the Lobby Lounge gives guests the opportunity to savour aromatic teas along with a selection of authentic Peranakan specialities such as the Kueh Pie Tee – a savoury snack of braised turnip served in a deliciously crispy pastry shell – and a diverse selection of sweet Peranakan desserts or ‘Kuehs’.
7. Market Lane Bar – InterContinental Melbourne The Rialto (Melbourne, Australia)
Widely touted as the coffee capital of Australia with its cobblestoned lanes with waves of aromatic espresso permeating the streets, it is not difficult to find an tea spot in Melbourne amongst the myriad cafes readily available.
Placing a modern twist on the classic afternoon tea, Market Lane Bar at InterContinental Melbourne stands out from the crowd and promises a charming experience that gets better with every sip.
Partake in this city’s favourite past time, complemented by a luxurious assortment of savoury and sweet bites prepared with Australia’s finest local ingredients. Move from a relaxing afternoon to a chic evening as the Market Lane Bar also has a fully functional bar, which may be the perfect segue from your tea experience into a night out in town.
8. Lobby Lounge – InterContinental Seoul COEX (Seoul, South Korea)
The tea culture in South Korea boasts a long history when tea appreciation first originated from the Korean royal families. As a result, while tea drinking has evolved over the years into a leisure activity, some emphasis is still placed on ritualised tea ceremonies in addition to social etiquette. Tea drinking has developed into a way of life for many South Koreans.
Be it chilly winter weather, or a sweltering day in summer, InterContinental Seoul COEX’s Lobby Lounge is one of the best places for locals and guests alike to take refuge from the weather. Treat your taste buds to the comforting warm beverages that will go perfectly with a platter of interesting and delectable treats such as Irish Soda Scones, Bitters Jelly and Tiramisu Venetian.
9. Cha Lounge – InterContinental Century City Chengdu (Chengdu, China)
The Chinese have an established culture of tea drinking and this comes as no surprise as tea was first discovered in China as early as 2737 BC. First used by the Chinese as a medicinal herb, tea has since evolved into a beverage served at every social occasion.
Deeply ingrained into Chinese culture and way of living, the Chinese has a famous tea philosophy known as the ‘Way of Tea’, which promotes four wholesome values of ‘Harmony’, ‘Tranquility’, ‘Fulfillment’ and ‘Truth’ with the ritual of tea drinking.
If you are in search of inner tranquillity and an authentic Chinese tea experience, Cha Lounge at InterContinental Century City Chengdu is one stop you must make. At the extensive tea gallery, you can expect to be spoilt for choice with the vast variety of tea options and flavours as well as tasty snacks available at the Cha Lounge.
10. Citron – InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsular Resort (Danang, Vietnam)
In Vietnam, tea is part of everyday life and consumed at almost every occasion ranging from weddings to birthdays and ceremonial rituals. It is extremely common for locals to sip on tea at a quán cóc, or roadside makeshift shop, while waiting for friends to join them for a cup before they make their way to the next activity.
To experience this local ritual in luxurious style, tea time at InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsular Resort’s Citron is a must-do.
Sip on authentic and refreshing Vietnamese Iced Tea to cool down on a hot sunny day while overlooking the panoramic view of the seascape, and pamper your palate with an exquisite assortment of traditional Vietnamese specialities and other mini-bites.
To top off this idyllic tea encounter, the tea is free flow. There is really no better way to spend the entire afternoon like the Vietnamese do and enjoy one of the simplest but best things in life.